Up-close modular stadia energize fans-players



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Rob Friend at Coliseum US 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Rob Friend has many a plumes to his beret. He is not only the Co-Owner and President of the Canadian Premier League team Vancouver FC but also a Partner in the Six Five Sports and Entertainment, a Canadian investment fund which diversify global funds seeking investments in high growth markets for sporting opportunities and sporting infrastructure.

Friend also had a prolific soccer career predominantly playing in the German Bundesliga, the top of the German football league system. In 2018, he became one of the Founders of the Canadian Premier League, the Tier One Canadian Professional Soccer League.

Keith M. MacBain is the Principal of Geiger Engineers, US, a structural engineering consulting firm, and he has been associated with the company since the year 2002. His areas of expertise include structural engineering with emphasis on computational methods in optimization and nonlinear response of structures.

In a riveting exchange with ‘Coliseum’, Rob Friend, Co-Owner & President, Vancouver FC, Canada, tells that as a player himself he well knows the fact that the players are deeply moved by the fans’ chants and the reaction from the stands motivate them to play with more vigor on the pitch. In this context, he asserts that the modular venues – like the home of the Vancouver FC – the Willoughby Community Park Stadium in Langley, Canada – provide a more intimate experience to the fans than the traditional plush stadia of today and at a fraction of the cost as these arenas are built up-close to the field. Keith M. MacBain, Principal, Geiger Engineers, US, echoes similar sentiments.
 

Willoughby Community Park Stadium

The 6,600-capacity Willoughby Community Park Stadium is a soccer stadium located in the Township of Langley, British Columbia (Canada), near the Langley Events Centre. In 2023, the spectator stands were constructed around the existing turf field. It opened on May 7th, 2023. It is one of four sports fields in Willoughby Park and serves as the digs of the newly founded Vancouver FC which plays in the Canadian Premier League, the top of the Canadian soccer league system.
 

Modular Stadium

A modular stadium is a permanent and/or semi-permanent structure that can be built quickly, cost-effective, and still offer a group the ability to relocate it if required. Modular stadiums are built from standardized components that are produced in a factory and then assembled onsite. They are made from galvanised steel and aluminum components for the grandstand structure, prefabricated modules for VIP suites and team facilities, concessions etc., and a cantilever roof structure to close off the stadium.

Keith M. MacBain informed that the Willoughby Community Park Stadium which opened in the year 2022 is based on modular design and was constructed in about three months time. Rob Friend joined MacBain in informing that for “Canada to host the 2026 World Cup the country must enjoy its own domestic Tier One league. Thus, the Canadian Premier League was born in 2017 and the first season ran in 2019. But for the Vancouver FC to play their first season in 2023 we urgently required a venue. We decided to go for a modular stadium which one can order and within four months from order they can be erected and turnkey ready to kick off. We ordered the stadium in November 2022 and within wild eight months we were handed over the keys.”

Friend further informed that he and his partners went on a journey around the world visiting different modular stadia to take pages out of their books “and we started our own stadia design & supply company SixFive Stadium Experience. Their turnkey solutions allow you to choose the stadium tailored to meet your specific sporting needs. Their mid-capacity ‘stadiums of the future’ can be assembled in just six to eight months and are totally Green.”
 

Prefabricated Modular Build

SixFive stadiums comprise of a system of steel frames welded with interlocking connection systems, post ledgers, braces & deck units that lock together to form a quick erect, structural support system. They are manufactured in a factory setting and assembled on-site, much like a giant Lego set.

Friend described the modular stadium at the Willoughby Community Park as a “wonderful, beautiful stadium which creates a very intimate atmosphere for fans, especially those in the soccer stands. I think modular stadiums create a more up-close experience for the fans. These stadia are very cost-effective and can be build under 10-15 million dollars. One can sort of test the market, within one’s market test the fan base and then kind of create a foundation to eventually build something more permanent.”

MacBain said that that Friend and his team had to bend over backwards to ready the venue on time.

Further talking about the features of these modular facilities, Friend put in, “These modular stadiums are simple and not like the chic stadiums of today. It gives you the basics of great seating, great viewing angles, you get to choose your seats – from simple permanent seating to pop-up seats to more sort of cushiony leather-type seats. You can sort of customize your venue to certain extent, modular suites, you have these modular amenities. Nevertheless, it makes for a great venue, a great fan experience as the supporters can be close to the field and close to the action.”
 

Sum-up

Rob Friend summed up by reiterating that the best thing about modular venues is that it is as “close to the field as possible and provides that intimate touch and for the players the closer you are to the fans they play better, they play with more energy and it translates back into the stands. This is what matters the most!”

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